Best of CH 2013: Crowdfunded Projects

From photography to tech and travel, Kickstarter and the ilk had a big year in helping set ideas in motion

Once again, crowdfunding showed no sign of slowing in 2013. While Kickstarter is still top dog in terms of introducing new ideas, traffic to similar sites like Indiegogo and Rally continues to pick up—meaning we may just still be seeing the tip of the iceberg that is the popularity of crowdfunding. Luckily, for every Cabin Sister’s fail that slips through the cracks, there are many more projects deserving of the creative community’s support. So, in the spirit of looking back on 2013, the following are 10 of our favorite crowdfunded projects that caught our attention this past year—from emerging breweries and coffee roasters to design books and photography tools.

Lumu iPhone Light Meter

For film and digital photography enthusiasts alike, Lumu offers the most elegant solution we’ve seen to carrying a supplementary light meter. The minimalist design harkens back to handheld light meters of years past, while using current day tech to connect in much the same way a Square credit card reader does. The professional-level sensor’s capabilities far surpass that of the iPhone, making it as useful as it is handsome. The battery-less sensor reached its Kickstarter goal 12 times over.

FlyKly Smart Wheel

Quite possibly the most revolutionary crowdfunded project we saw in 2013, the FlyKly Smart Wheel turns conventional bicycles into electric bikes. By converting kinetic energy generated while cycling, the nine pound rear smart wheel engages when additional effort is needed, helping you cruise up inclines and maintain a steady speed with ease. While the idea itself is brilliant, potential applications in encouraging commuting by bike are huge. The project was funded to over 700%.

Mazama Ceramic Drinking Vessels

Be it coffee, beer, food, apparel or leather goods, Portland, Oregon seems to breed creativity and a DIY attitude. While many ride the coattails of the small city’s reputation, new ceramic vessel maker Mazama aims to have their products speak for themselves. Masterfully creating cups and such by hand, the young brand and its sophisticated aesthetic successfully raised nearly double their Kickstarter goal. Now, less than two months later, the brand’s site is up and running—with e-sales coming soon.


Buckminster Fuller: Poet of Geometry

Widely considered to be one of the most influential visionaries in modern design history, Buckminster Fuller is best known for his deep love of the geodesic dome. To celebrate old Bucky’s passion for designing a better tomorrow and illustrate them for greater comprehension, designer and artist Cole Gerst created “Buckminster Fuller: Poet of Geometry,” a book of beautiful imagery and ideas. Almost doubling its projected goal earlier this past spring, the book itself is now available from Option-g for $40.

Bonaverde Coffee Machine

Just about one month ago the enterprising minds behind Berlin-based startup Bonaverde stopped by CH HQ to demonstrate what they’re calling the world’s first coffee machine that roasts, grinds and brews. Just a tad bigger than a conventional drip-coffee machine, the clever device put on quite a show and delivered a rather tasty cup of Joe—especially considering the beans were green just minutes before the resulting brew sat in our hand. On 8 December, the Bonaverde was successfully funded, securing just over five times the dollar amount of their original goal.

Tangeez Tangible Lights

The brainchild of two NYU ITP alumni, Tangeez is a set of internally illuminated stacking blocks for children and even adults. The simple design—featuring three dorsal prongs for Lego-like stacking—encourages creativity without instruction. Plus, the colors change depending on stacking arrangements. Encouraging creativity at a young age, Tangeez was funded entirely earlier this fall.

Save Rex Ranch

Just 40 miles south of Tucson, Arizona lies an expired dude ranch, complete with 35 buildings spanning 50 acres. To breathe new life into the enchanting compound, Joseph Beyer is attempting to raise some $735,000 before 14 February 2014 (thanks to a campaign extension). While the future of Rex Ranch is still up in the air—funding is a significant way out—plans to turn the area into an artists refuge sound promising in our eyes. Visit Rally to pitch in on the ongoing project.

Touching Strangers: Photographs by Richard Renaldi

Since 2007 photographer Richard Renaldi has been working on “Touching Strangers,” a series of situation-specific images wherein two complete strangers pose together. From warm embraces to tentative touches, the images—shot on a large format 8×10 camera—hold a strange sense of intimacy for the viewer, and no doubt for the subjects as well. While the series is ongoing regardless, the successful Kickstarter campaign guaranteed Renaldi’s work would see print someday soon.

Braven Brewing Company

Becoming ever more recognizable to those outside of NY, Brooklyn’s arts-driven, pizza-eating neighborhood of Bushwick is now home to Braven Brewing Company, the area’s first brewery to open in 30 years. Setting up shop in the industrial area that once overflowed with independent breweries, the budding brewery aims to bring the neighborhood back to its sudsy roots with two IPA offerings and a barrel of ambition. In late November Braven reached its goal to fund a much needed operation expansion.


With Lumio, an unassuming book becomes a nightlight for reading. The accordion-style Tyvek LED lamp folds flat for ease of transportation and storage—a design detail that also allows the user to adjust the amount of light emitted by opening or closing the “cover.” Impressively, the project garnered nearly 10 times its projected goal, earning upwards of $578K.

Bonaverde image by Nara Shin, all others courtesy of their respective brands